What Your Attachment Style Says About Your Love Life

How we were raised is a determining factor to how we attach to people later in life.

Love & Relationships

Navigating relationships can be a complex and layered experience. Whether we are in a romantic relationship or developing a friendship, there are so many intricacies and nuances to consider. However, there are ways to dig deeper and connect more intimately with a romantic partner, as well as with yourself. One thing that is unexpected in relationships is what you learn about yourself. Sometimes it is these lessons that give you the greatest insight into your dating patterns.

Besides identifying your love language, it is also important to look into your attachment style, or in other words, how you connect with others. Before we go further, let's get a working definition of attachment styles. According to research conducted by Dr. Cindy Hazan and Dr. Phillip Shaver, attachment is "a biosocial process by which affectional bonds are formed between adult lovers, just as affectional bonds are formed earlier in life between human infants and their parents." So what does this all mean? Basically, how you were raised and how your parents reared you determines how you attach to people in relationships later in life.

This is commonly referred to as the attachment theory.

So why is it important to understand your attachment style in relationships?


According to Dr. Ayanna Abrams, a licensed clinical psychologist, "Knowing your attachment style is important because it helps you understand how you organize your world. It helps you to understand how you view yourself in relation to other people and how you tend to view other people in relation to yourself." In close intimates relationships, this is crucial because it can explain why you might push a partner away or why you may cling too closely to people. Depending on which attachment style you lean towards, you can gain insight into the way you bond with people and reveal patterns around dating habits.

There are four attachment styles that can be identified between adults in a relationship: secure, anxious-preoccupied, dismissive-avoidant, and fearful-avoidant.

How you fall into each category depends on a few factors: how you engage and think about closeness and emotional intimacy, how you communicate, how you listen and understand your emotions as well as your partners, your conflict resolution skills, and the expectations you place on your partner or relationships. Each attachment style has a distinct underlying basic characteristic that involves closeness or how comfortable you are being intimate and emotionally close with another person. It also involves a default to dependent/avoidant behavior. Simply put, dependent/avoidant behavior refers to how comfortable you feel depending on people or having people depend on you. Lastly, there is a component of anxiety. This means the amount of fear you have around a partner rejecting or abandoning you.

What are each of the attachment styles?


Secure Attachment: In this attachment style people are low avoidance and low anxiety. They feel safe in relationships, are comfortable with intimacy, are not worried about rejections, and are not preoccupied with relationships. People in this category tend to be more satisfied with their relationships. As a child, they view their parents as a secure base and feel they can venture out into the world and explore independently. This is also displayed in their adult relationships with a romantic partner where they feel secure and connected while allowing themselves and partner to move freely. They often are able to support their partners when they are troubled. These relationships are honest, open, and equal. Both partners feel independent and loving towards one another. People in this category do not participate in a "Fantasy Bond", this is the belief that connections provide a false sense of security. Couples that fantasy bond do not engage in real acts of love but act in a more robotic, routine way that puts distance between them and actually emotionally relating.

Anxious-Preoccupied: This attachment style is low in avoidance and high in anxiety. People in this category crave closeness and intimacy from their partners but are extremely insecure in their relationships. They are often searching for their partner to rescue or complete them as a person. This can manifest in behaviors that are seeking safety by becoming very clingy but in turn, push away their partner. Even with their desperate and insecure actions, the behaviors more times than none, only serve to exacerbate their own manufactured fears. When they become possessive towards their partners, any independent actions exhibited by their partner may only confirm their fears.


Dismissive-Avoidant: People who fall into this attachment style are high in avoidance and low in anxiety. They are normally uncomfortable with being close or intimate with other people. They also value their independence and freedom and oftentimes do not worry about their partner's availability. There is a tendency for people in this category to be emotionally distant from their partners. They can appear to be self-centered and only focused on themselves while attending to their own needs. Something else unique to this group is their ability to shut down in emotional situations and turn their feelings off with little to no reaction.

Fearful-Avoidant: This attachment style is high in both avoidance and anxiety. Here, people feel not only uncomfortable with intimacy but worry that their partner is not committed or does not love them. Essentially they feel a state of being afraid of being both too close or too distant from others. They often have trouble keeping their feelings under control, not being able to avoid anxiety but also not being able to run away from their feelings. Unpredictability in their moods is common with fearful-avoidant people. They struggle with wanting to land securely with their partner but also feeling this same person will hurt them. They almost never get their emotional needs met when they are in a relationship.

When you identify what your attachment style is, what's next?


If you find that you are securely attached, great! Continue to move forward in this way with people who respect and honor you while still building healthy relationships. However, if you find that you are in an attachment style that is undesirable or not beneficial, can you change your attachment style? The answer is yes. Dr. Niecie Jones, a psychotherapist, suggests doing reflexivity work, or inner reflection, to understand where certain behaviors and patterns may have begun.

Also when doing the work towards changing your attachment style, she adds, "Think of different people in your life, could be mentors, could be friends, who seem to be more open with their boundaries or with their trusting. Find certain things that they are able to say or do as habits that have helped them be more trusting and try to adapt those into your life." So there is hope. If you are thinking about starting this work, look to yourself first.

Where do you go for help to develop a new attachment style?


There are several types of resources that can help you discover a new attachment style. Ranging from books to actual in-person therapy sessions, there is a wealth of information. For some helpful reading to learn more about how attachment styles affect your love life, check out Hold Me Tight by Dr. Sue Johnson. In it, a therapy called emotionally-focused couple therapy is discussed and how your emotional attachments to your partner are the same as a child to a parent. This book also offers ways to save your relationships by "re-establishing emotional connection," with others.

However, both Dr. Abrams and Dr. Jones agree that help from a professional therapist is ideal in recognizing patterns and developing tools to engage yourself as well as others. Also, if you are in relationships and trying to work through these obstacles, it can be a difficult process. It a good idea to have a professional observe what is going on to identify the attachment styles that may be causing blocks in your romantic partnerships as well as any other relationships you might have in your life. The main key to success in relationships though is both people have to completely invest in the process.

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ACLU By ACLUSponsored

Over the past four years, we grew accustomed to a regular barrage of blatant, segregationist-style racism from the White House. Donald Trump tweeted that “the Squad," four Democratic Congresswomen who are Black, Latinx, and South Asian, should “go back" to the “corrupt" countries they came from; that same year, he called Elizabeth Warren “Pocahontas," mocking her belief that she might be descended from Native American ancestors.

But as outrageous as the racist comments Trump regularly spewed were, the racially unjust governmental actions his administration took and, in the case of COVID-19, didn't take, impacted millions more — especially Black and Brown people.

To begin to heal and move toward real racial justice, we must address not only the harms of the past four years, but also the harms tracing back to this country's origins. Racism has played an active role in the creation of our systems of education, health care, ownership, and employment, and virtually every other facet of life since this nation's founding.

Our history has shown us that it's not enough to take racist policies off the books if we are going to achieve true justice. Those past policies have structured our society and created deeply-rooted patterns and practices that can only be disrupted and reformed with new policies of similar strength and efficacy. In short, a systemic problem requires a systemic solution. To combat systemic racism, we must pursue systemic equality.

What is Systemic Racism?

A system is a collection of elements that are organized for a common purpose. Racism in America is a system that combines economic, political, and social components. That system specifically disempowers and disenfranchises Black people, while maintaining and expanding implicit and explicit advantages for white people, leading to better opportunities in jobs, education, and housing, and discrimination in the criminal legal system. For example, the country's voting systems empower white voters at the expense of voters of color, resulting in an unequal system of governance in which those communities have little voice and representation, even in policies that directly impact them.

Systemic Equality is a Systemic Solution

In the years ahead, the ACLU will pursue administrative and legislative campaigns targeting the Biden-Harris administration and Congress. We will leverage legal advocacy to dismantle systemic barriers, and will work with our affiliates to change policies nearer to the communities most harmed by these legacies. The goal is to build a nation where every person can achieve their highest potential, unhampered by structural and institutional racism.

To begin, in 2021, we believe the Biden administration and Congress should take the following crucial steps to advance systemic equality:

Voting Rights

The administration must issue an executive order creating a Justice Department lead staff position on voting rights violations in every U.S. Attorney office. We are seeing a flood of unlawful restrictions on voting across the country, and at every level of state and local government. This nationwide problem requires nationwide investigatory and enforcement resources. Even if it requires new training and approval protocols, a new voting rights enforcement program with the participation of all 93 U.S. Attorney offices is the best way to help ensure nationwide enforcement of voting rights laws.

These assistant U.S. attorneys should begin by ensuring that every American in the custody of the Bureau of Prisons who is eligible to vote can vote, and monitor the Census and redistricting process to fight the dilution of voting power in communities of color.

We are also calling on Congress to pass the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act to finally create a fair and equal national voting system, the cause for which John Lewis devoted his life.

Student Debt

Black borrowers pay more than other students for the same degrees, and graduate with an average of $7,400 more in debt than their white peers. In the years following graduation, the debt gap more than triples. Nearly half of Black borrowers will default within 12 years. In other words, for Black Americans, the American dream costs more. Last week, Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Sen. Elizabeth Warren, along with House Reps. Ayanna Pressley, Maxine Waters, and others, called on President Biden to cancel up to $50,000 in federal student loan debt per borrower.

We couldn't agree more. By forgiving $50,000 of student debt, President Biden can unleash pent up economic potential in Black communities, while relieving them of a burden that forestalls so many hopes and dreams. Black women in particular will benefit from this executive action, as they are proportionately the most indebted group of all Americans.

Postal Banking

In both low and high income majority-Black communities, traditional bank branches are 50 percent more likely to close than in white communities. The result is that nearly 50 percent of Black Americans are unbanked or underbanked, and many pay more than $2,000 in fees associated with subprime financial institutions. Over their lifetime, those fees can add up to as much as two years of annual income for the average Black family.

The U.S. Postal Service can and should meet this crisis by providing competitive, low-cost financial services to help advance economic equality. We call on President Biden to appoint new members to the Postal Board of Governors so that the Post Office can do the work of providing essential services to every American.

Fair Housing

Across the country, millions of people are living in communities of concentrated poverty, including 26 percent of all Black children. The Biden administration should again implement the 2015 Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing rule, which required localities that receive federal funds for housing to investigate and address barriers to fair housing and patterns or practices that promote bias. In 1980, the average Black person lived in a neighborhood that was 62 percent Black and 31 percent white. By 2010, the average Black person's neighborhood was 48 percent Black and 34 percent white. Reinstating the Obama-era Fair Housing Rule will combat this ongoing segregation and set us on a path to true integration.

Congress should also pass the American Housing and Economic Mobility Act, or a similar measure, to finally redress the legacy of redlining and break down the walls of segregation once and for all.

Broadband Access

To realize broadband's potential to benefit our democracy and connect us to one another, all people in the United States must have equal access and broadband must be made affordable for the most vulnerable. Yet today, 15 percent of American households with school-age children do not have subscriptions to any form of broadband, including one-quarter of Black households (an additional 23 percent of African Americans are “smartphone-only" internet users, meaning they lack traditional home broadband service but do own a smartphone, which is insufficient to attend class, do homework, or apply for a job). The Biden administration, Federal Communications Commission, and Congress must develop and implement plans to increase funding for broadband to expand universal access.

Enhanced, Refundable Child Tax Credits

The United States faces a crisis of child poverty. Seventeen percent of all American children are impoverished — a rate higher than not just peer nations like Canada and the U.K., but Mexico and Russia as well. Currently, more than 50 percent of Black and Latinx children in the U.S. do not qualify for the full benefit, compared to 23 percent of white children, and nearly one in five Black children do not receive any credit at all.

To combat this crisis, President Biden and Congress should enhance the child tax credit and make it fully refundable. If we enhance the child tax credit, we can cut child poverty by 40 percent and instantly lift over 50 percent of Black children out of poverty.


We cannot repair harms that we have not fully diagnosed. We must commit to a thorough examination of the impact of the legacy of chattel slavery on racial inequality today. In 2021, Congress must pass H.R. 40, which would establish a commission to study reparations and make recommendations for Black Americans.

The Long View

For the past century, the ACLU has fought for racial justice in legislatures and in courts, including through several landmark Supreme Court cases. While the court has not always ruled in favor of racial justice, incremental wins throughout history have helped to chip away at different forms of racism such as school segregation ( Brown v. Board), racial bias in the criminal legal system (Powell v. Alabama, i.e. the Scottsboro Boys), and marriage inequality (Loving v. Virginia). While these landmark victories initiated necessary reforms, they were only a starting point.

Systemic racism continues to pervade the lives of Black people through voter suppression, lack of financial services, housing discrimination, and other areas. More than anything, doing this work has taught the ACLU that we must fight on every front in order to overcome our country's legacies of racism. That is what our Systemic Equality agenda is all about.

In the weeks ahead, we will both expand on our views of why these campaigns are crucial to systemic equality and signal the path this country must take. We will also dive into our work to build organizing, advocacy, and legal power in the South — a region with a unique history of racial oppression and violence alongside a rich history of antiracist organizing and advocacy. We are committed to four principles throughout this campaign: reconciliation, access, prosperity, and empowerment. We hope that our actions can meet our ambition to, as Dr. King said, lead this nation to live out the true meaning of its creed.

What you can do:
Take the pledge: Systemic Equality Agenda
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